Russia to ‘Unplug’ from the internet.

With cyber attacks on the rise, it is unsurprising that our global super-powers are doing everything they can to prepare themselves.  With this in mind, it has been announced this week that Russia plan to briefly ‘un-plug’ from the internet as part of their cyber defence testing.

The testing will mean that instead of routing data internationally, information to be passed between Russian citizens and organisations will remain inside the nation.

The Digital Economy National Program, a draft law mandating the technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to Russian Parliament last year.  In brief, it requires Russia’s ISPs to ensure that it can operate in the event of foreign powers acting to isolate the country online.  The measures outlined in the law include Russia building its own version of the net’s address system, known as DNS, so it can operate if links to these internationally-located servers are cut.

The test is also expected to involve ISPs demonstrating that they can direct data to government-controlled routing points. These will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians reaches its destination, but any destined for foreign computers is discarded.

The ultimate aim of the Russian government is that all domestic traffic has to pass through these router points. It is thought that this is all in an effort to set up a mass censorship system similar to that which we have seen in China; one which tries to scrub out prohibited traffic.   Indeed, China’s firewall is probably the world’s best-known censorship tool. It is highly sophisticated; policing router points and road-blocking those sites the Chinese government does not wish its citizens to see.

Reports from Russia’s major news organisations suggest that the nation’s ISPs are broadly backing the aims of the draft law, however, there has been some division on how best to do it.  Indeed, it is not without the danger of causing “major disruption” to Russian internet traffic. Perhaps to sweeten the pill, the Russian government is providing the funds for its ISPs to modify their infrastructure so the redirection effort can be properly tested.

The test is thought to be actioned sometime before April, but as yet no specific date has been disclosed.   

London’s Tech Sector pledges job creation.

It has been announced this week that consortium, Tech London Advocates have pledged to create one million tech jobs in the capital by 2023.   This group is impressive indeed and is made up of 7,000 of this country’s top tech investors, experts and leaders.

Unsurprisingly, there is acclaimed and widespread support for the initiative.

More than 200 tech leaders have signed the pledge. The list includes Baroness Shields, chairperson of BenevolentAI; Lord Jim Knight, founder of TES Global; Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded; Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, president of techUK, and Amali de Alwis MBE, founder of Code First Girls and ComputerWeekly’s Most Influential Woman in Tech in 2018.  

As well as this, representatives from some of London’s largest employers have signed the agreement.   Among them…Telefonica, BT Consumer, Samsung UK, Oracle, and Heathrow Airport.

In addition, leading names from across the tech ecosystem have all committed to the cause.  Signatories from Microsoft UK, CityMapper, CybSafe, Box and Twilio have all backed the scheme.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates comments:

“It is wonderful to see leading figures from the UK tech community pledging their commitment to this cause in such high numbers.

“Talent is the most pressing issue faced by digital businesses – both big and small –  and only through joint action can we make a lasting difference. The tech sector is one of Britain’s stand out industries, and by strengthening its foundations we can sustain its growth, and keep Britain at the forefront of global innovation.”

According to some online recruitment sources, there are currently over 48,000 live vacancies for tech positions in the UK.  Despite this though, there continues to be significant under-representation in the industry across gender, ethnicity, young people, disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community.   

Alarmingly,  with current tech employment standing at 318,480 (Tech Nation 2018), to reach the one million target, TLA will need to bring one new employee into the industry every three minutes.

Members from Tech London Advocates agree with Mr Shaw.  They agree that a shortage of talent is the single biggest challenge faced in the capital.  In order to address this, these industry influencers have pledged to address a couple of key areas of focus.  The strategy is to both adjust the education system, as well as to reform the immigration process.

In detail, the pledge involves a personal commitment to tackle three pivotal obstacles to tech employment in the UK – gender diversity, inclusion for under-represented minorities and attracting young people to the industry.  Tech London Advocates wants to address this disparity.

Tech London Advocates will be conducting research annually for the next five years to track improvement across these areas and monitor progress.  

INSHUR closes $7M series A funding and a $2M credit facility.

Insuretech, INSHUR has enjoyed a record year of growth.  This week it has been announced that they have continued their run of good fortune.  INSHUR have disclosed that they have closed a Series A investment round, securing $7M in equity funding and a further $2M credit facility.

INSHUR is a 100% digital provider of commercial auto insurance.  The product has recently launched in the UK after being live in New York for the past 11 months.

The round has been led by Munich Re Ventures with participation from MTech Capital, and it is thought that it will be used to support expansion into new territories and accelerate reach into new insurance verticals.  Currently, they are solely geared toward the rideshare market.

CEO Dan Bratshpis is quite rightly proud of INSHUR’s success.  He says;

“We are excited to be working with strategic investment partners who understand the complexity of the Insurtech landscape and the opportunity that lays before us. I am proud of the bootstrapped growth we have achieved in our two territories to date, it’s a testament to our amazing team. Our first institutional round of funding will allow us to expand further into new territories and insurance verticals within the US and EU.”

Perhaps the success of the INSHUR model lies within its mobile-first ideology.  INSHUR helps professional drivers buy insurance coverage quickly and at a competitive price-all from their mobile interface.

They have managed to create a product that is reflective of how we are shifting toward the small screen and embracing our ‘mobile’ lifestyles.  Particularly important if you are a commercial driver with limited time to spend hanging on the line sorting out your latest premium.

LEGO and Snapchat use AR to create a ‘naked’ clothing store!

Perhaps in a surprising partnership, Lego have teamed up with Snapchat to launch a clothing store…with no clothes in it!

The brands have joined forces and will swap traditional retail models for one that is a bit more futuristic.  The pairing will use tech to create an augmented reality fashion pop-up; one which will promote LEGO Wear’s first limited-edition clothing line for adults.

The pop-up will be physically empty of everything, except for a plinth-posted snapcode (the company’s in-app answer to a QR code).  The portal will allow shoppers to enter a virtual shop, complete with an interactive DJ booth, LEGO bouncer, arcade machine, and – most importantly – exclusive products for purchase.

Lea Sandell, Global Social Media Innovation Lead for LEGO, is excited by the concept, and sees this revolutionary project as a “bridge between the physical and digital world”.  She goes on to say that “as a brand we are exploring a multitude of digital platforms and technologies to connect with fans in fun and engaging ways”.

Snapchat users are a sample that, on paper at least, would embrace this level of innovation.  

Will Scougal, Director EMEA Creative Strategy at Snap endorses this.  He remarked that;

“Snapchatters engage with AR naturally, on average 70% of them play with an AR lens every day…..So with the addition of e-commerce – to an exciting experience like this one – we’re able to drive sales, too.”

Broadly speaking, retail looks set to be a space that will be heavily dominated by AR in the future.  Just last month, Amazon was rumoured to be working on an AR shopping app which would allow customers to virtually try clothes on from the comfort of their own home.

Bricks and mortar retail certainly appears to be on the decline.  We have seen the demise of some big names over the past few years and the high street is most definitely not the hub of Saturday afternoon activity it once was.  

Whether or not we are all cut out for AR shopping remains to be seen, but it certainly is an exciting concept!  

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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